Denise Wren (nee Tuckfield) was a student at Kingston School of Art from 1907 to 1912, where she studied applied design under the tutelage of Archibald Knox. Wren was one of Knox’s most accomplished students, becoming known in the mid years of the 20th century primarily as a studio potter, as well as a textile designer. Denise’s older sister Winifred was also at the art school in the design class, and the sisters were pivotal in the student revolt over Knox’s resignation that led to the splinter Knox Guild of Design and Craft being formed in Kingston in 1912.
An exhibition of work from Wren’s Oxshott Pottery was held at the Holburne Museum in Bath in 1984, and examples of her work are in the collections at the V&A Museum and Craft Study Centre. In the catalogue of the Bath exhibition, Margot Coutts speaks of the influence that Wren’s education in Kingston had upon her subsequent artistic career:
‘Running through all her work is Denise Wren’s ability and need to draw. It shows in her first incised pots made at the Knox Guild of Design and Craft, Kingston, in her textile designs of the middle years, and in her ruggedly scratched saltglaze pots of the 1960s.’
Coutts continues: ‘Amongst the many subjects on the syllabus at Kingston, modelling was the one which held Denise Tuckfield’s particular attention, and led her to an interest in clay. The class was normally taken by Mr Pike but on one occasion in his absence Archibald Knox taught the class himself. He showed the students how to make coil pots with modelled decoration instead of the usual type of exercise such as modelling a copy of an antique plaster cast that they had been used to.’
In 1910 Kingston School of Art didn’t have kilns onsite, so as an extract from Denise’s diary at this time reveals, firing work meant a trip to a local pottery:
‘5 January 1910. In school at 10.30 took my modelled nurell post and capital to the Norbiton Pottery Works to be baked…missed the baking by a day or two…will not be baked for another month…back by 12 o’clock…shading cast until 4, designed several mosaic designs.’
The images below show Denise in 1912, photographed by E.T. Holding. We also include example images of her artistic and design practice.